The food industry's newest smell test

Manufacturers are experimenting with aroma infusions that can trick our brains into thinking we are tasting certain flavors.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
 
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
By Jessi Hempel, writer

bottles.03.jpg
Tech that tricks the tongue
ScentSational Technologies has released one consumer product, Aroma Water, that uses smells to replicate flavors. Here's how it works.
1. FDA-approved flavors are sealed into a thin layer of plastic that coats the inside of the bottle cap. Before the seal is broken, the fragrance infuses the water with a fruity scent.
2. When a consumer pops open the bottle top, breaking its seal, the fragrance is also released into the air, and it travels along the back of the throat to the nasal passage, enhancing the fruity taste.

(Fortune Magazine) -- First came bottled water. Then food companies began "infusing" water, tea, and other bottled drinks with fruit flavors and vitamins. Next up? Smell infusions.

The latest trend in food packaging seems straight out of science fiction: Jars and boxes lined with "smell technology" emit molecules that push against their contents, infusing the items with different flavors. The concept, however, is steeped in real science: Researchers have discovered that most of what we call taste happens not in our mouths, but through our noses. Aromas, in essence, can trick your brain into thinking you are tasting certain flavors.

An upstart called ScentSational Technologies, founded in 1997 in Jenkintown, Pa., is working with a number of food companies to harness the science of smell. The aim: to produce tasty products without sugary additives like corn syrup or expensive ingredients such as heavy cream.

ScentSational Technologies says it is working with a baby-food producer to add an odor to the seal of its caps so that when parents open the jars, they can smell "freshness"; it's also collaborating with a cereal maker to add fragrance to plastic bags, "sweetening" the product while actually reducing the amount of sugar. ScentSational Technologies founder Steven Landau says he can't disclose clients' names because the projects are still in the experimental stage.

Another reason food manufacturers may be staying mum: the risk of a backlash from consumers, who are increasingly concerned about food safety and processing. Landau insists there's nothing unnatural about smell infusions - at the most basic level, the smells simply are a set of molecules - and he says he doesn't need approval from the FDA because his flavored-smell suppliers already have the government's okay.

But there's something disquieting about what he's proposing: If a cup of black coffee can be infused with the smells of sugar and steamed milk, tricking the brain into thinking it's a sweetened latte, why bother with the coffee at all? A cup of hot water could become a stand-in for any warm beverage. Similarly, a nutrient-rich vitamin bar could "taste" like cake. Whether consumers embrace or reject this latest technology remains to be seen, but Landau and his clients certainly have given us food for thought.  To top of page

Company Price Change % Change
Advanced Micro Devic... 41.15 -1.44 -3.38%
Danaher Corp 148.52 -2.78 -1.84%
General Electric Co 11.34 -0.10 -0.87%
Bank of America Corp... 34.44 -0.24 -0.69%
Ford Motor Co 9.23 -0.09 -0.97%
Data as of 6:30pm ET
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 28,135.38 3.33 0.01%
Nasdaq 8,734.88 17.56 0.20%
S&P 500 3,168.80 0.23 0.01%
Treasuries 1.82 -0.08 -4.11%
Data as of 9:58pm ET
More Galleries
10 of the most luxurious airline amenity kits When it comes to in-flight pampering, the amenity kits offered by these 10 airlines are the ultimate in luxury More
7 startups that want to improve your mental health From a text therapy platform to apps that push you reminders to breathe, these self-care startups offer help on a daily basis or in times of need. More
5 radical technologies that will change how you get to work From Uber's flying cars to the Hyperloop, these are some of the neatest transportation concepts in the works today. More
Sponsors
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.